Australian farmers back UK trade agreement

More Australian beef and lamb will be exported to the UK as import taxes are phased out over a decade under a free trade deal between the two nations.

People up to the age of 35 will be eligible for working holiday visas in both countries, while UK backpackers will no longer have to work 88 days on farms to extend their stay.

The in-principle agreement is the first British deal with another country since the nation’s acrimonious divorce from the European Union.

Prime Minister Scott Morrison and his UK counterpart Boris Johnson announced the agreement on Tuesday evening Australian time after face-to-face negotiations in London.

“Our economies are stronger by these agreements. This is the most comprehensive and ambitious agreement that Australia has concluded,” Mr Morrison told reporters at 10 Downing Street.

Beef and sheep meat tariffs will be eliminated after 10 years with duty-free quotas rising over the period.

Sugar duties will be phased out over eight years, with dairy tariffs scrapped after five years of increased quotas.

Agriculture was a key sticking point in reaching the deal, with British farmers concerned about competing against Australian products.

“We’re opening up to Australia, but we’re doing it in a staggered way and we’re doing it over 15 years,” Mr Johnson said.

National Farmers’ Federation president Fiona Simson said the deal was a significant step forward in Australia’s market access.

“Australian and UK farmers share a commitment to meeting the highest standards when it comes to caring for their land and their livestock, and that commitment shows in the quality of our produce,” she said.

“UK customers will benefit from the increased availability of high-quality Australian products on their supermarket shelves, alongside their homegrown options.”

Acting Prime Minister Michael McCormack has recommitted to introducing the shelved agriculture visa to plug the shortfall in British backpackers.

“The NFF will need to see more detail on how an ag visa and the flagged agribusiness visa will work, and when, because we have heard this one before,” Ms Simson said.

The deal also paves the way for more professional qualifications to be recognised between the two countries.

Australia will remove its tariffs of up to five per cent on cars manufactured in England, and Scotch whisky.

Industry groups said the UK exported 20,000 cars to Australia in 2019 and the country was the eighth-largest Scotch whisky market.

Business Council of Australia boss Jennifer Westacott said the deal was a huge win after Australian exporters were effectively locked out of the UK market for almost 50 years.

“Australia is going to the front of the pack, set to become the UK’s most ambitious post-Brexit trade partner,” she said.

Mr Johnson joked the deal meant “you give us Tim Tams and we give you Penguins, you give us Vegemite and we give you Marmite, we give you Burberry and Mackintoshes and you give us RM Williams Japaras”.

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